Human Rights First Urges Fair Trial for Russian Lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin




New York. Human Rights First today joined the growing chorus of international concern over the arrest and prosecution of Russian human rights lawyer, Mikhail Trepashkin. Human Rights First fears that Mr. Trepashkin may be the victim of baseless prosecution on fabricated charges apparently designed to prevent him from revealing evidence about alleged state involvement in the 1999 bombing of apartment buildings in Moscow. On December 15, 2004, the second day of a criminal trial against Mr. Trepashkin, Human Rights First urges the Russian government to ensure that the trial proceeds fairly and that Mr. Trepashkin is released unconditionally if there is insufficient evidence to convict him.

“It is suspicious that Mr. Trepashkin was arrested just days before he was scheduled to present evidence in court,” said Neil Hicks, Director of International Programs at Human Rights First, “especially as others involved in the investigation into the 1999 bombings have also suffered unexplained mishaps.”

The public investigation came to an abrupt end when the co-chairman of the body charged with conducting an inquiry into the devastating crime, the Kovalev Commission, Sergei Yushenkov, was murdered in front of his home. A Commission member died of food poisoning, another was brutally beaten, and two other members were removed from their seats in the legislature.

Human Rights First asks that the Russian government:

- provide Mr. Trepashkin with a fair trial and release him unconditionally if there is insufficient evidence to convict him;

- move Mr. Trepashkin to a more humane location for the duration of his detention as a judge ordered more than six months ago;

- commence a full and fair inquiry into the circumstances of Mr. Trepashkin’s arrest.

Background

Mikhail Trepashkin exposed evidence that could suggest government complicity in the 1999 apartment explosions in Moscow. Just before he was to appear in the trial of Chechen rebels accused in the blasts, police stopped him on the road and claimed they found a gun in the trunk of his car. Mr. Trepashkin has been imprisoned for this offense since October 2003. He was prevented from representing his clients, daughters of a woman killed in the 1999 bombing, and from presenting the evidence he had gathered that implicates the Russian government in the bombing. The conditions under which Mr. Trepashkin is held are inhumane; he shares a small cell with six other inmates and is denied basic medical treatment.